Voters approve marijuana law change in Massachusetts

By chillinwill · Nov 5, 2008 · ·
  1. chillinwill
    Voters yesterday overwhelmingly approved a ballot initiative to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana, making getting caught with less than an ounce of pot punishable by a civil fine of $100. The change in the law means someone found carrying dozens of joints will no longer be reported to the state's criminal history board.

    With about 90 percent of the state's precincts reporting last night, voters favored the Question 2 proposition 65 percent to 35 percent.

    "The people were ahead of the politicians on this issue; they recognize and want a more sensible approach to our marijuana policy," said Whitney Taylor, chairwoman of the Committee for Sensible Marijuana Policy, which campaigned for the ballot initiative. "They want to focus our limited law enforcement resources on serious and violent crimes. They recognize under the new law that the punishment will fit the offense."

    The proposition will become law 30 days after it is reported to the Governor's Council, which usually meets in late November or early December. But the Legislature could amend or repeal the new law, as they have done with prior initiatives passed by the voters, said Emily LaGrassa, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Martha Coakley.

    Opponents of the proposition said they are concerned about the potential consequences of the vote. "The administration is clear in its opposition to the decriminalization of marijuana, and we are concerned about the effects of ballot Question 2's passage," Kevin Burke, secretary of the state's Executive Office of Public Safety and Security, said in a statement.

    He would not comment on whether the administration will try to repeal the law, which will require violators younger than 18 to complete a drug awareness program and community service. The fine would increase to as much as $1,000 for those who fail to complete the program.

    Proponents of the initiative, who spent about $1 million promoting it, argued the change in the law would maintain the state's existing penalties for growing, trafficking, or driving under the influence of marijuana, while ensuring that those caught with less than an ounce of pot would avoid the taint of a criminal record.

    The opponents, who include the governor, attorney general, and district attorneys around the state, argued that decriminalizing marijuana possession would promote drug use and benefit drug dealers at a time when they say marijuana has become more potent. They warned it would increase violence on the streets and safety hazards in the workplace, and cause the number of car crashes to rise as more youths drive under the influence.

    In a statement, the Coalition for Safe Streets, which opposed the initiative, blamed the loss on being outspent by supporters of Question 2, which included the billionaire financier George Soros, who spent more than $400,000 in favor of decriminalizing marijuana.

    "Now these pro-drug special interests will move on to another state as part of their plan to inflict a radical drug-legalization agenda on as many communities as possible," said the statement.

    The Rev. Bruce Wall, pastor of Global Ministries Christian Church in Dorchester, was among several prominent black ministers in Boston who called on fellow clergy to oppose the initiative.

    "I guess there are a lot of people smoking the stuff, and they don't see what we see," Wall said.

    The initiative's success last night sparked loud cheers from supporters gathered at the Silvertone Bar & Grill in downtown.

    "I think this points to how our Legislature is unwilling to represent their constituents on these issues," said Bill Downing, president of the Massachusetts Cannabis Reform Coalition.

    By David Abel
    Globe Staff
    November 5, 2008
    © Copyright 2008 Globe Newspaper Company.

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  1. robin_himself
    US elections: States vote on abortion, marijuana and gay marriage
    Daniel Nasaw in Washington, Wednesday November 05 2008 03.35 GMT

    As the world focused on the presidential election, voters in a number of US states decided questions on a hot-button social and cultural issues.

    Voters in Colorado and South Dakota defeated ballot measures aimed at restricting abortion, while Massachusetts and Michigan approved measures to slacken marijuana laws. In Washington state, voters approved a law allowing physician-assisted suicide.

    In South Dakota, voters rejected a ballot proposition that would have outlawed abortion except in cases of rape, incest and serious health threat to the mother. Had it passed, the law would likely have provoked a constitutional challenge, setting up an fight in the US supreme court over a woman's right to choose abortion.

    In 2006 South Dakotans rejected a stricter abortion ban that did not include the exceptions for rape and incest.

    Colorado also has an abortion-related question on the ballot. Voters today decide on a constitutional amendment that would define human life as beginning at conception. It doesn't mention abortion, but would force legislators and courts to confront which legal rights to extend to foetuses – and whether the amendment effectively bans abortion. Recent polling projected a wide defeat for the proposal.

    Michigan became the 13th state to legalise marijuana for medical use, while Massachusetts decriminalised possession of one ounce or less of the substance, making the offence punishable with a citation and a $100 fine.

    "Tonight's results represent a sea change," said Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, which backed the Massachusetts and Michigan ballot proposals. "Voters have spectacularly rejected eight years of the most intense government war on marijuana since the days of 'Reefer Madness.'"

    In Arkansas, voters approved a measure on the ballot to bar unmarried couples from adopting or taking in foster children. The referendum is intended as a constitutionally permissible way to prevent gays from adopting, supporters say.

    Meanwhile, Californians today voted on a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. Late polls showed a tight race. The state supreme court in May forced the state to allow gays to marry, but Christian conservatives launched a successful campaign to put a proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot. The state allows gay civil unions, but social conservatives worry that gay marriage in California will set a trend that will spread nationwide.

    robin_himself added 6 Minutes and 23 Seconds later...

    Voters Say Yes to MJ in Massachusetts and Michigan

    Posted by CN Staff on November 05, 2008 at 05:36:23 PT
    By Paul Armentano, NORML
    Source: AlterNet

    USA -- The politics of compassion have overcome the politics of fear.
    On election day, Michigan became the thirteenth state to legalize the physician supervised possession and use of cannabis. According to early returns, more than 60 percent of Michigan voters decided in favor of Proposal 1, which establishes a state-regulated system regarding the use and cultivation of medical marijuana by qualified patients.

    Voters endorsed the measure despite a high profile, deceptive, and despicable ad campaign by Prop. 1 opponents -- who falsely claimed that the initiative would allow for the open sale of marijuana "in every neighborhood, just blocks from schools." (In fact, Proposal 1 does not even allow for the creation of licensed cannabis dispensaries.)

    Michigan's new law goes into effect on December 4th, at which time nearly one-quarter of the US population will live in a state that authorizes the legal use of medical cannabis.

    Meanwhile, in Massachusetts, some 65 percent of voters (and virtually every town) decided "yes" on Question 2, which reduces minor marijuana possession to a fine-only offense. Like in Michigan, voters rejected a high-profile, deceptive ad campaign by the measure's opponents, who argued that it would increase adolescent drug abuse, permit large-scale marijuana trafficking, endanger workplace safety, and sharply increase traffic fatalities.

    Question 2 is expected to become law in 30 days -- making Massachusetts the thirteenth state to decriminalize the personal possession and use of cannabis. (Note: Under state law, politicians have the option of amending the new law.)

    NORML celebrates both victories and recognizes that neither would have been possible without the grassroots efforts of Michigan and Massachusetts state activists -- who laid the groundwork for both campaigns by successfully passing a series of similar, municipal initiatives over the past several years.

    Tonight, once again, voters have rejected the Bush doctrine on drugs. They've rejected the lies put forward by drug warriors and law enforcement, and demonstrated -- overwhelmingly -- that truth, compassion, and first-hand experience are more persuasive than the deception and scare tactics of those who would take away our freedoms and confine us in cages.

    In short, it is the cannabis community, not the Drug Czar, that is shaping America's marijuana policy, and tonight we go to bed knowing that millions of Americans will wake up tomorrow with a better, brighter, and more tolerant future than they had today.

    Paul Armentano is the senior policy analyst for the NORML Foundation in Washington, DC.
  2. purplehaze
    Thats great. More leaneant laws to appear in the U.S. in regards to marijuana, seems education is overpowering, when the majority starts to be tuned in hopefully the laws will start to make more sense. The founding fathers had alot figured out, maybe we can backtrack a few hundred years and get shit straight again. As soon as the marijuana laws get changed in america everyone will better from it, hemp and all it has to offer, energy sources etc will improve the hell out of our dumb ass country. Hate to say that about my own country but non violent offenders should not be in prison.
  3. MrG
    That is fantastic news, kudos to all involved in getting such difficult feats accomplished.


    Let's wait and see how Mr Obama will approach the whole Federal vs State marijuana law conflict.
  4. chillinwill
    BOSTON (AP) ― People caught with an ounce or less of marijuana will no longer be considered criminals in Massachusetts, after voters approved a ballot question Tuesday designed to ease the prohibition on the drug.

    Under the new law, which takes effect in 30 days, those caught with the small portion of the drug will be forced to give up the pot and pay a $100 fine instead of facing criminal penalties.

    Supporters of the ballot question hailed the win, saying the new law will spare thousands from having a criminal record, which can make it harder to get a job, student loan or gain access to public housing.

    They also argued the question would save taxpayers $30 million in costs associated with marijuana arrests.

    The win makes Massachusetts the 12th state in the country to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana.

    "It's nice to see that the voters of Massachusetts saw what a sensible policy Question Two is," said Whitney Taylor of the Committee for Sensible Marijuana Policy. "It's going to end the creation of thousands of new people being involved in the criminal justice system each year and refocus law enforcement resources on violent crime."

    Critics, led by the state's 11 district attorneys, warned the measure could lead to more drug abuse among young people. They said marijuana is a gateway to harder drugs and said the marijuana available on the streets today is more potent than pot three decades ago.

    They also argued that existing state law already requires judges to dismiss charges and seal records for first-time offenders.

    Barnstable District Attorney Michael O'Keefe, who helped lead the opposition, said the state now must set up a new system to deal with the new law, including retraining police officers.

    "Who do they report that ticket to? Who is going to oversee that?" O'Keefe said.

    O'Keefe called the question a "mistake and bad public policy" and said it may not be realistic to make the switch within 30 days.

    "We have a Registry of Motor Vehicles in this state, but we don't have a registry of dope smokers yet, but apparently we will now," he said.

    O'Keefe also complained that opponents were outspent by out-of-state activists who poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into the organizing effort and signature-gathering campaign.

    Among those contributing to supporters of the question was billionaire financier and liberal activist George Soros, who donated $400,000.

    Taylor dismissed O'Keefe's criticism, saying police already have citation booklets and can use them to issue tickets to those caught with small portions of the drug. She also said the group has no other plans to decriminalize drugs in Massachusetts.

    Under the new law, anyone under 18 caught with an ounce of less of marijuana has to complete a drug awareness course or face a stiffer, $1,000 fine. Parents or legal guardians must also be notified.

    Nov 4, 2008 10:51 pm US/Eastern
    © 2008 The Associated Press
  5. purplehaze
    O'Keefe's arguements are arrogant as hell and tics phaze off a little. He is clearly uneducated on the topic, so therefor he should be silenced aswell and be ignored. The critics arguement is just outright flawed.
    Mj is not a gateway for one, i felt like that has been proven and only through media propangda is it still cited. Also they are argueing that pot is safer than it was 3 decades ago, simply because it is more potent less of the "drug" has to be dosed and therefor a higher concentration of the intended chemicals can be had without the chemicals with negative side effects, not to mention less smoke if that is the form of ingestion.

    Hopefully if anything less harsh laws will hopefully make more americans question the validity of the marijuana pentaltys and do a little research for themselves. After the majority of voters research and become more informed on the topic there should be no reason for the current laws worldwide to stand in the future. Not to mention the impact the U.S. DEA has on other countries.
  6. fiveleggedrat
    What are the other 11 then?
  7. PsychoActivist
    It's really great to hear something positive like this. Swim doesn't smoke herb anymore (by choice) as it began to make him feel uncomfortable. He used to love it. But he still and always will believe it should be 100% legal. If you think about it, the younger kids who feel compelled to try something, well, lets just say herb would be a great alternative to alcohol. I really hope this trend continues into other states. Again, thanks for the good news. Always a pleasure to hear something that makes you happy after a day of work.
  8. chillinwill
    Police Say Voters Made A Big Mistake

    A day after an initiative de-criminalizing marijuana possession passes, police are voicing their anger, saying voters made it easier for drug dealers to do business on local streets.

    One of the most debated questions on this year's Massachusetts ballot was whether or not to de-criminalize the use of small amounts of marijuana. In a nearly 2-1 margin, voters passed the measure, effectively removing the criminal penalties associated with possession.

    "This was a mistake. A big mistake," said Holyoke Police Chief Anthony Scott.

    Chief Scott joined other local police chiefs in condemning the choice some voters made at the polls Tuesday, saying, "this is a bad message that the voters sent to young people."

    By a 65-percent majority, Bay State residents voted to de-criminalize the possession of an ounce or less of marijuana. An ounce is enough to make roughly 40 joints. The new law will replace a criminal charge with a civil one - offenders only have to pay a $100 fine if they are caught with the drug. Chief Scott said voters have set a bad example.

    "It's basically telling young people that it's okay to posess an ounce or less of marijuana, after we have been spending millions of dollars trying to tell kids to say no to drugs, not to drink, and to quit smoking," Scott said.

    Some voters in Northampton said they had no doubt the initiative would pass.

    "This state's way to liberal not to let it go," said Michael Matthews, a Northampton resident.

    Others say de-criminalizing marijuana is worth a shot.

    "I say, try it out for a year and see if it works. If not, then go back to the old law," said Holyoke resident Al Lebeau.

    Proponents of Question 2 said the new law would allow cops to focus on bigger crimes. But, Chief Scott says if anything, this new law will certainly lead to bigger problems.

    "So drug dealers can carry an ounce or less of marijuana, and when we grab them off the street, they've [only] committed a civil infraction," said Scott.

    The new law is likely to take effect next year. Hampden County District Attorney William Bennett said the voters have spoken, and his office will stop prosecuting low-level marijuana crimes right away. The DA's office will also be teaming up with police chiefs in the near future to figure out how to implement the change without giving up on drug dealers.

    By Matt DeLucia
    Story Published: Nov 5, 2008 at 7:20 PM EST
    Story Updated: Nov 5, 2008 at 7:20 PM EST

    Iniatives Provoke Ire, Joy

    The possession of an ounce or less of marijuana will be decriminalized, dog racing will banned by 2010, and the state income tax isn't going away, Massachusetts residents decided on Tuesday when they voted on three state-wide ballot questions.

    When the law governing marijuana goes into effect in November or December, people will not be arrested for the possession of small quantities of marijuana, said Whitney Taylor, the chairwoman of the Committee for Sensible Marijuana Policy, an advocacy group that supports decriminalization.

    The effect, Taylor said, will be that people "won't be punished for the rest of their lives" if they are caught with the drug. Instead, people over 18 will face a fine of $100, and minors will have to complete a drug awareness program and perform community service.

    Whitney said that while the "legislature can always introduce a new vote" to overturn the initiative, she said that the 65 percent of the vote that the initiative received constitutes "a mandate."

    "Politicians wish they won their races by 65 percent of the vote," she said.

    Students and professors interviewed were supportive of the initiative.

    "It's a small step, because it doesn't change the laws radically," said Jeffrey A. Miron, a Harvard economics professor.

    But the implications for Harvard students are "very, very small," he said, because marijuana will still be illegal. And the change in the law will not alter Harvard's policies on illegal drug possession.

    "Harvard is still perfectly free to set whatever policy it wants," Miron said.

    Charles R. Nesson '60, a professor at Harvard Law School who filed a lawsuit earlier this year challenging the constitutionality of drug laws, said he was "very pleased" with the passage of the initiative.

    Nesson said it was a "very big step conceptually," because "it recognizes that doing something that harms no one is not an appropriate basis for making someone a criminal." But as far as actually changing anything, Nesson added, it was a "very small step."

    Intiya Isaza-Figueroa '10, a native of North Hampton, Mass., said she voted to decriminalize marijuana, but that she does not believe that the initiative will reduce social stigmas about marijuana use.

    Diana G. Kimball '09, a native of Ann Arbor, Mich. who is registered in Cambridge, said she voted to decriminalize marijuana because "having a criminal record is really serious," but added that she generally feels less educated about the ballot questions than about the presidential race.

    "I made the decision that rang liberal to me," she said when deciding which initiatives to vote for.

    The same philosophy guided her on the other two initiatives as well: when it came to deciding whether to ban dog racing, Kimball said, "Cruelty is usually a pretty good thing to get rid of."

    But the ban on dog racing proved to be the most controversial of the three--it passed 56 to 44, the smallest margin of the initiatives.

    Isaza-Figueroa said she voted against it.

    "I don't bet on dog racing personally," she said. "I don't think it was a significant part of our industry."

    The ballot question on the income tax was decided by the largest margin, with 70 percent voting to keep the income tax and 30 percent voting to abolish it.

    Thuy N. Quan '11 said she voted against the question because Massachusetts is already "billions of dollars in debt."

    She questioned where funding for public schools would come from if the initiative had passed.

    the initiative.

    Nesson said it was a "very big step conceptually," because "it recognizes that doing something that harms no one is not an appropriate basis for making someone a criminal." But as far as actually changing anything, Nesson added, it was a "very small step."

    Intiya Isaza-Figueroa '10, a native of North Hampton, Mass., said she voted to decriminalize marijuana, but that she does not believe that the initiative will reduce social stigmas about marijuana use.

    Diana G. Kimball '09, a native of Ann Arbor, Mich. who is registered in Cambridge, said she voted to decriminalize marijuana because "having a criminal record is really serious," but added that she generally feels less educated about the ballot questions than about the presidential race.

    decided by the largest margin, with 70 percent voting to keep the income tax and 30 percent voting to abolish it.

    Thuy N. Quan '11 said she voted against the question because Massachusetts is already "billions of dollars in debt."

    She questioned where funding for public schools would come from if the initiative had passed.

    Author: Eric P Newcomer
    Pubdate: Wed, 05 Nov 2008
    Source: Harvard Crimson, The (MA Edu)
    Copyright: 2008, The Harvard Crimson, Inc.
  9. MrG
    So your tactics for eradicating weed were about as effective as those you used for the alcoholic beverage industry and the tobacco lobby.

    Don't blame us pal, you just suck at your job.
  10. chillinwill
    Police and district attorneys not sure how to proceed with new pot law

    Massachusetts voters last week, including 65 percent of Milford voters and 66 percent of Framingham voters, approved Ballot Question 2 to decriminalize possession of less than an ounce of marijuana. Now what?

    For area law enforcement officials, the answer prompts a long list of more questions. Among them:

    Who is going to maintain the registry for the offense?

    How are the police going to be trained?

    What happens if someone doesn't pay the fine?

    "The only thing I can see clearly is that there is going to have to be a little more time to figure things out," said Norfolk District Attorney William Keating. "This was never thought through."

    And the clock is ticking. All these questions must be answered in the next 30 days, before the new law takes effect.

    Keating and other district attorneys met Friday, at the request of the state Office of Public Safety, to address implementation questions.

    But Keating said the informal meeting led to more questions than answers.

    According to Keating, municipal leaders are worried about being sued for unlawful arrests and police chiefs want to know what to do if someone without identification is stopped with a small amount of pot.

    Milford Police Chief Thomas O'Loughlin said one of the biggest challenges he faces are legal guidelines that have yet to be clarified.

    "If I pull over a car and find three people smoking a joint, is there a consensus that I still have a right to search?" he asked. O'Loughlin said it is now up to the Legislature to take a look at these grey areas and key questions.

    In addition to these concerns, there are simple technical details - such as getting the tickets printed - that must be dealt with.

    These logistical problems are a common concern among district attorneys and lawmakers. According to Worcester County District Attorney Joseph Early, the amount of marijuana that constitutes a civil offense provides for anywhere from 30-60 joints.

    He wondered if someone has less than an ounce but it appears it is divided in such a way that indicates intent to distribute, can they be charged with a criminal as opposed to a civil offense?

    "That has really been the biggest roadblock," said Early.

    O'Loughlin and Keating also expressed concern about the equity of the new law.

    "A kid standing with a can of beer that is worth a dollar faces greater penalties than a kid with an ounce of marijuana worth $600," said O'Loughlin. "We have to treat kids fairly."

    Keating said the severity of penalties for underage drinking as opposed to the new law are fueling uncertainty.

    "The most difficult portion of this are those issues that surround people under 21 because we are left with such an uneven situation here," said Keating.

    Keating said the law creates a handful of unintended consequences, such as the effect it has on school policies regarding pot use and foster care screening of potential caregivers with pot records, which he says are "even more far reaching than just the basic law questions that are being asked."

    Corey Welford, a spokesman for Middlesex District Attorney Gerard Leone, said until the new law is implemented the existing marijuana law will remain in effect.

    "We want to send a clear message to our kids that marijuana is unhealthy, dangerous and illegal in Massachusetts," he said. "It doesn't change our resolve to prosecute drug traffickers."

    One district attorney is already operating as though the new law were in effect. Hamden District Attorney William Bennett said last week after the landslide vote he planned to drop all pending marijuana cases where the amount of pot in possession is less than one ounce. He plans on acting as though the law is in effect now to instead focus on prosecuting drug dealers.

    Under the new law, those caught with less than one ounce of marijuana face a $100 fine and must forfeit the drug. The current law stipulates that those caught with small amounts of marijuana face a $500 fine and up to six months on jail.

    One of the main arguments of Question 2 opponents was that decriminalization was tantamount to legalization.

    But state Rep. John Fernades, D-Milford, said all trafficking laws remain on the books.

    "The possession of marijuana is now decriminalized, the acquisition of it is not," he said. "Distribution is still a criminal offense."

    Many proponents of Question 2 argued that the current law prevented students from obtaining scholarships and unfairly affected their admission to schools for a minor offense.

    "From a personal point of view, I don't want to see somebody not get a scholarship or not get into a particular school because of a minor offense," said O'Loughlin.

    Fernandes said he spoke with many parents of young children who have been caught up in the court system because of marijuana convictions.

    "You have to look at an election like this and see that the generations that were voting were more tolerant than previous generations have been," he said. "The people have spoken."

    By Lisa Przystup, Daily News correspondent
    Posted Nov 09, 2008 @ 12:05 AM
    MetroWest Daily News
  11. robin_himself
    Police Fear New MJ Law Will Lead To Increased Use

    Massachusetts -- Nearly 2 million people voted to ease the state's marijuana laws last week, but to Haverhill Deputy police Chief Donald Thompson, the new guidelines simply don't make sense.

    Under the new rules, he said, an 18-year-old stopped for a routine traffic violation who is found to have under an ounce of marijuana on him would not be arrested. But if the same person has a single, unopened beer in the car, he would be subject to arrest.

    "I don't think people thought it through," Thompson said of Question 2, which was approved by 65 percent of voters at the polls on Tuesday.

    The ballot question called for the decriminalization of the possession of small amounts of marijuana. Those caught with an ounce or less will be forced to give up the drugs and pay a $100 fine instead of criminal penalties. Those under 18 will be required to complete a drug awareness program or face a stiffer $1,000 fine.

    Groveland police Chief Robert Kirmelewicz said he fears that under the relaxed law, drug dealers will take more chances selling marijuana, especially to younger people. The current penalty for possession of small amounts of marijuana in Massachusetts is up to six months in jail and a $500 fine.

    "I feel this will not only encourage the use of marijuana in communities, but will also empower drug dealers to sell marijuana to our children, knowing the absence of criminal prosecution," Kirmelewicz said. "I am very disappointed with the passing of this law.

    "What I envision is that they (dealers) carry less than an ounce of marijuana on them so they don't have to worry about prosecution. You're talking a $100 fine. A speeding ticket is more money than that. It's crazy. You're going to let a guy you would normally arrest walk away with almost an ounce of pot."

    The revised law is expected to go into effect in late December or early January, or 30 days after the governor is presented with official election results. That gives local law enforcement officials less than two months to adapt to the new rules.

    Until that time, possession of any amount of marijuana is still a criminal offense, according to Attorney General Martha Coakley, who is working to determine exactly what the new rules will require the legal system to do.

    Essex County District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett, who opposed Question 2, met with Coakley, other district attorneys, and representatives from the state Executive Office of Public Safety and Security on Friday to discuss the implementation of the new law.

    Many questions remain as to exactly how the law will be enforced, Blodgett said, including whether or not a central registry will be created to keep track of marijuana possession fines; how challenges to a fine will be handled; and how the state's Department of Family and Children will handle the drug education awareness component of the law.

    He said the district attorneys are also asking Gov. Deval Patrick to provide assistance to local police departments so they can train officers to enforce the new law fairly and uniformly across the state.
    Blodgett said he has been in contact with local police departments and will be scheduling a formal meeting shortly.

    Methuen police Chief Katherine Lavigne said she is confident the state will work everything out before the new rules take effect.
    "They'll be working on that and getting back to us," Lavigne said. "We have some time before this is implemented."

    Supporters of the ballot question said the new law will spare thousands from having a criminal record, which can make it harder to get a job, student loan or gain access to public housing. They also argued that taxpayers would save $30 million in costs associated with marijuana arrests.

    In written statements before the election, Blodgett said it is a myth that first-time offenders charged with marijuana possession go to jail and pick up criminal records in the state of Massachusetts. Under state law, he said individuals charged with marijuana possession are placed on probation, and upon successfully completing probation, their records are sealed.

    Thompson, Haverhill's deputy police chief, questioned why state officials failed to invest in an advertising campaign before the election to show the public the risks associated with approving Question 2, chief among them that its passage could lead to more drug abuse among young people.
    "I'm disappointed the state didn't put up a fight," he said.

    With the passage of Question 2, Massachusetts becomes the 12th state in the country to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana.
    Lawrence, along with Braintree and Clarksburgh, were the only three communities in the state where a majority of voters opposed the question, and in all three instances it was voted down by a slim margin.

    Overall, 60 percent of voters in the Merrimack Valley supported decriminalizing the possession of an ounce or less of marijuana, compared to 65 percent statewide. Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.

    Source: Eagle-Tribune, The (MA)
    Author: Brian Messenger
    Published: November 09, 2008
    Copyright: 2008 The Eagle-Tribune
    Contact: [email protected]
  12. splish6
    Why the hell do these dumbass cops keep bringing up the "kid with a beer and kid with marijuana" comparison? Weed is safer than alcohol. Accept it, douchebags!
  13. guldenat
    And apparently since pot is more expensive than beer, it is unfair for the penalties to be less. ??? I don't even see the connection these police draw. Should I get more jailtime for wreckless endangerment in a Mercedes then a Hyundai? They need to start requiring IQ tests for cops.
  14. Frond
    Let's wait and see if the law is amended or repealed before we start celebrating. It's no news that the majority of Americans supports the decriminalization of MJ, or ending the drug war in general. What the majority wants right now doesn't matter worth a damn. Somehow I feel that the powers that be are going to see this as a precedent case, and are going to fight tooth and claw to get this law struck down. If they fail, then we'll have cause to cheer.

    Also, does this contradict federal law in any way? Because if it does, there will be yet another major precedent legal case brewing.

    The next 30 days are going to be very interesting.
  15. Metomni
    I await updates on this story, such good news, hopefully it sticks!
  16. robin_himself
    MA Ballot Initiative Makes Pot a Civil Offense

    Massachusetts -- A wide array of pundits has been referring to the recent election as "historic" because, for the first time, an African-American was elected president.

    But for Jeff Morris, a sophomore at Suffolk University in Boston, the election was historic for a different reason.

    Morris, who started a chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws at Suffolk this semester, is celebrating the passage of Massachusetts Ballot Question 2, which decriminalizes the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana, making it a civil offense instead of a criminal one.

    "The next day I got to school, everyone was just really excited," Morris said. "I heard more about Question 2 than about Barack Obama winning."
    Under the new law, people caught with one ounce or less of marijuana in Massachusetts must forfeit the drug and pay a $100 fine. Those under the age of 18 must also complete a drug awareness program, and are subject to fines of up to $1,000 if they do not complete the program within a year.

    Under the current law, possession of marijuana is a misdemeanor that can carry up to a $500 fine and six months in jail. Under the new law, which is expected to take effect in January, possession of more than one ounce of marijuana is considered possession with an intent to distribute, and is still a crime.

    The bill, which passed by a margin of 65 percent to 35 percent, received wide support among college students but was opposed by a broad coalition of Massachusetts lawmakers and police. Although the law has yet to be submitted to the state legislature for review - where it could still be amended or repealed - one district attorney has already said he will drop all pending simple possession marijuana cases.

    Thomas Nolan, associate professor of criminal justice at Boston University and a 27-year veteran of the Boston Police Department, said he believed decriminalization is "the right course." Nolan, who appeared in a television ad supporting Question 2, said that while he does not "condone marijuana use," he believes it should not be a criminal offense.
    Nolan said 7,500 new criminal records are created each year in Massachusetts for those charged with marijuana possession and that those records can have serious consequences, particularly for students receiving financial aid or looking for employment.
    Students with criminal marijuana offenses on their record could be denied federal financial aid, Nolan said.

    Critics of decriminalization point to the fact that Massachusetts state law already requires judges to seal the records of first-time marijuana possession offenders after six months if they do not commit another criminal offense. However, said Nolan, these records are not expunged. He said that, from a police perspective, a sealed record gives the impression that a person has "something to hide."
    Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley joined with all 11 of Massachusetts's district attorneys to oppose the bill, citing public safety concerns. In an Oct. 31 press release, Coakley said the "decriminalization of marijuana will send a message to children and young adults that it is okay to use and abuse illegal substances."

    Massachusetts students, however, were less convinced that the law would have a significant impact on campus communities.
    "I haven't seen any opposition (to Question 2) at all, really," said Jonathan Sussman, co-president of Students for Sensible Drug Policy at Brandeis University. "I've pretty much seen support across the board for it. Even my Republican friends and a few professors."
    Sussman said the small and "relatively young" SSDP chapter at Brandeis was not heavily involved in supporting the passage of Question 2. Last year, he said, they collected some signatures for petitions in support of the bill and signed up new voters.
    "We didn't encounter much direct opposition," he said, "but we did encounter a lot of apathy."

    Sussman said he did not expect the new law itself to affect Brandeis students in a major way. But in response to what he calls an "arbitrary" history of enforcing substance use policies at Brandeis, his group is drafting a resolution that would "officially declare drugs the lowest priority" for campus law enforcement. He said they plan to have a proposal before the Brandeis Student Union Senate by next week.
    Sussman said that with the recent passage of Question 2, "people are becoming more aware that drug policy reform is something we can do in college."

    Morris, the leader of the NORML chapter at Suffolk, said that the Saturday before the election his group held a small demonstration in the Boston Commons in support of Question 2. He said passers-by expressed little opposition to the bill.
    Morris said that although students were surprised by the passage of the bill, he did not expect the law to change the extent of marijuana use in the state. "I think it's just going to be a relax for responsible marijuana users," he said. "A nice breath of air, like a nice sigh."
    Lester Grinspoon, associate professor emeritus of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and the author of several books on positive uses of marijuana, said he was "delighted" that Question 2 had passed.
    Grinspoon said he believes marijuana's medical uses will bring about its legalization during the lifetime of today's college student, and that Question 2 is a step in that direction.

    "People are going to have an experience seeing a friend or loved one using this substance and not going wacky," making them more comfortable about supporting legalization, Grinspoon said.
    Although he supported Question 2, Grinspoon said he believed marijuana should be totally decriminalized and regulated in much the same manner that alcohol is. "People have to use it responsibly," said Grinspoon. "You don't drink and drive, you don't smoke and drive."
    Question 2 must still be approved by the Massachusetts state legislature, which has 30 days to change or even prevent it from going into effect. Morris said his group is writing letters to political officials and plans to hold more small rallies to ensure the measure becomes law.
    "The fight isn't over yet," he said.

    Source: Brown Daily Herald, The (Brown, RI Edu)
    Author: Emma Berry
    Published: November 12, 2008
    Copyright: 2008 The Brown Daily Herald
    Contact: [email protected]
  17. chillinwill
    Massachusetts police groups say no point in marijuana enforcement

    BOSTON U. — Nearly two weeks after voters overwhelmingly approved Question 2, a measure to decriminalize possession of less than one ounce of marijuana, police groups that have publicly opposed the measure have their own follow-up: Why bother?

    Under the law, which will take effect Dec. 4, officers in Massachusetts will issue a fine to individuals in possession of an ounce or less of marijuana instead arresting them.

    The question’s approval will put police in a non-enforcement conundrum by forcing them to treat marijuana violations as a lower priority, Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association Area A-1 representative James Carnell said.

    “Smoking weed will become similar to jay-walking, where you have a law that’s totally not enforced because it’s a waste of everyone’s time,” he said.

    Carnell said it is not worth an officer’s time to seize the drugs and fill out all the necessary paperwork for a citation under the new law and $100 fine when the fined individuals are not even required to show a valid form of identification.

    “It would serve no purpose to hand out citations to people who are under no obligation to provide a positive photo ID,” he said.

    Often those arrested for marijuana possession are breaking other laws and without making an arrest, it will be harder for officers to investigate these crimes, Carnell said.

    “This is just one other tool out of our hands to do anything about crime,” he said.

    There is no way to predict how Massachusetts’ police will handle the oncoming changes, Carnell said.

    “There is a whole range of issues that still haven’t been addressed and it is the street level officers who will be confronted with these issues,” he said.

    Last year, the Committee for Sensible Marijuana Policy proposed the new law because the group said arrest records unfairly hurt offenders’ chances to get jobs or secure financial aid, CSMP chairwoman Whitney Taylor said.

    “Lifetime barriers created by involvement with the criminal justice system are too harsh,” she said. “We want the penalty to fit the offense.”

    Taylor said a criminal record makes it difficult for people to obtain jobs, housing and student loans, and the new law will reduce these struggles for many people. The law is not meant to promote the use of marijuana, which is still an illegal substance, she said.

    “Eleven other states have passed similar laws and what we’ve seen is that it does not affect marijuana usage rates at all,” Taylor said.

    Though the measure will soon take effect, Taylor said the CSMP will continue to work with Massachusetts police to insure the proper enforcement of the new marijuana policy.

    “We will be working with others to make sure law enforcement officials and officers on the street enforce the law correctly,” she said.

    Anti-drug groups like Massachusetts’ Drug Abuse Resistance Education will continue to discourage drug use, D.A.R.E. Executive Director Domenic DiNatale said. Still, he acknowledged some laws, no matter how stringently enforced, are powerless to influence some people.

    “People are going to use [marijuana] regardless of what the law says,” he said.

    By Chelsea Pech
    The Daily Free Press/UWire
    Nov. 18, 2008
  18. Universal Expat
    SWIM enthusiastically voted YES on his overseas ballot. He didnt know it would be there and when he saw it he sent messages to every single person in Mass he knew of voting age and told them to VOTE just for this (many would have stayed home because Mass is such a safe Obama state).

    SWIM cant express how happy and relieved he is to see this. Now if it would only retroactively erase that small possession charge on his record........... LOL
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